This past Saturday I ran 17 miles, the longest I have run since training for the Chicago Marathon in 2010. I'd been feeling great up until that day and have a shiny new half marathon PR to prove it. I was nervous for the 17 miler as I tend to be when pushing distance, but nothing was inherently wrong. I'm not sick, not hurt (knock on wood...), getting plenty of sleep, and eating well.
Honestly, the run itself went really well. I started to doubt my legs especially around mile 14, walked for a short break, and then had my second wind and finished the planned distance strong. The marathon itself is far off in June, and my next 'race' (i.e. using as a training run) is the Big Sur 21 miler. So why would I start worrying now? Good question, one I'm asking myself often this week.
It was about this time during my first marathon training cycle that I started to question my ability to finish. Then, I was having what I recall to be bad shin pain and calf tightness. Every step felt like my legs were logs and there was no shock absorption at all. My long runs involved a lot more walking then due to pain and tightness. I remember being so utterly exhausted all of the time and using all of the mental energy I had to motivate myself to run even shorter distances.
After the 17 mile run I started to feel exhausted, have been sleeping more than usual the past few nights, and have been a little less ready to work out by the end of the work day. Again nothing really really wrong, but I'm usually raring to go running after feeling cooped up in the office! Does this mean I'm losing motivation? Am I a bad runner for not being excited to run every day? Maybe I'm not cut out for full marathons? These feelings together translated into self-doubt about going even farther in this weekend's run and how my body will handle it.
But when I think back to training for Chicago, I realize how far I've come in only a year and a half. I'm much stronger both as a runner and from strength training. I know how to handle what my muscles need, such as stretching and foam rolling. There is maybe some calf tightness, but no leg-logs and shin pain to go with it. Even my average half marathon time has dropped by about ten minutes from spring 2010 to spring 2012 (The PR by 16 minutes!)
Comparing these two marathon training periods really puts my current training into perspective. I AM getting better, I AM getting stronger, and I CAN run another marathon. And perhaps even another after that.
The next time you have doubts - about running or whatever it may be - make yourself think about where you were in the past and how far you have come. And remember how strong you are.